Asking others the right questions enables people to explore problems in more depth without removing the control and ownership of the problem from them. Great questions might include:
How else could you achieve that?
What other examples have you found?
Why might that be the case?
Could there be another reason?
Who else could we involve?
If we changed this one aspect what would happen?
When we ask exploratory questions like these it helps people explore more deeply the challenges they face, which is critical if they are to find effective solutions. Similarly if you want your team to really get to the bottom of business issues and arrive at real and impactful solutions they also need to be curious. To be curious they need permission to explore, analyse, play, test, make mistakes and retry. You convey permission for this not only in your words but in what you do, and how you react to the things that go wrong. If exploring is important to your organisation then it needs to be embodied in how your people operate and interact with others.
Back in the 80's and 90's when technology as we now know it was young, but growing fast, system testing was a playground of exploration for us fledgling geeks . Technology changed so quickly that we were writing our own 'how to' manuals as we we went along, and to do this we had to take a brave, fearless and curious approach to the job. Every action we took was preceded with the phrase 'I wonder what will happen if I...'. Often this was followed up with the phrase 'oooppss!!' and 'Well now we know what not to do!'.
(Former technology worker)
This behaviour mirrors that of explorers. Explorers are brave, curious, tenacious, resilient, optimistic and embrace lifelong learning. They are also self aware, they know what they can achieve alone and also when they need to involve others.
Many organisations are realising that their people are using social media to explore, debate, crowd source and curate their own solutions and discover new information. This means organisations need to be brave about the technology they enable, they need to incorporate powerful social media tools into the work environments and give people permission to explore and investigate what is out there. In short, the organisational mindset needs to shift to one that trusts that people will act with integrity and work positively for the organisation, rather than assuming the organisation need to police all their employee activities.
Here are some questions to reflect on
1. How can you encourage your team to go out into the business and explore?
2. How can you build up your teams armoury of great exploratory questions?
3. How can you role model being an explorer?
4. Are the behaviours you currently reward, those that matter in today's rapidly evolving work environment.
'We must dare to think unthinkable thoughts, we must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.'
J William Fulbright